Oral History: Sonja Hoel Perkins
One of the rock stars of tech VC, Sonja Hoel Perkins, a graduate of UVA and Harvard, joined Menlo Ventures in 1994. Two years later, at age 29, she became the youngest general partner in the firm’s history. Perkins was a startup investor in Acme Packet, McAfee Associates and Q1 Labs, and has invested in more than 40 companies. In 2010, she cofounded the all-female investing group Broadway Angels. Worth asked her about being a woman and a leader in two male bastions, finance and tech.
We decided Broadway Angels would be only women partly because this has always been a man’s world.
It was also to inspire. There’s so much attention on how few women are in investing. But there are women involved, and they’re doing amazing work.”
I started a nonprofit called Project Glimmer that gives holiday gifts to girls and women in need.
Success is not achieved in a vacuum. It’s about the time you live in, the people who help you. So it’s important to give back.”
When I first started out, VC was a very small industry. You knew everyone.
No longer. There are hedge funds involved, the Fidelities of the world. It’s no longer a geeky cottage industry.”
Young people feel like they need to show how smart they are by being super eager, but it almost always looks like the opposite.
I tell young people starting out: Listen. Work for the smartest people you can find, and listen.”
No matter who you are, don’t think you know everything when it comes to investing.
My husband and I have advisors. I handle the tech part, but it’s important to diversify, and when it comes to the other parts, I depend on advice.”
Early on, being a woman in venture helped a lot.
People remembered us because we were so unusual.